Tuesday, February 06, 2007

GRI Book Club: Yunus and Grameen

I have been following Mohammed Yunus and Grameen Bank since they came across my radar as a student in the late 1980's. I have been stunned at the power of their microcredit model and the success it has had in Yunus' native Bangladesh, and where it has been replicated elsewhere in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even the United States.

It was a thrill to see Yunus and the Bank win the Nobel Peace Prize in late 2006 in recognition of over 20 years of dedication to helping the world's poorest people lift themselves out of poverty. Just look at the numbers for Grameen Bank alone: nealry 6.6 million borrowers in Bangladesh, 97% of these are women, all of which were operating in the informal sector or not generating income at all before their Grameen loan. There have been US$ 6 billion in loans since 1983, with US $ 5.6 billion paid back - a loan recovery rate envied by most conventional lenders.

I recently finished Professor Yunus' book "Banker to the Poor" and there are just so many facinating messages that I could highlight from it, so its hard to choose just one to focus on today - but I will. Among Yunus's small number of strong convictions (the major one being that the poor always pay back their loans) underlying the main operating principles of Grameen Bank is that globalization and capitalism can work to eradicate poverty forever as long as the company finds a way to balance its capitalistic ("greedy") nature with its role as a fundamental player in society. Grameen is a case in point here, as it runs at a profit and has spun off dozens of other profitable companies ranging from telecoms, fisheries, textiles, insurance, mutual funds, and home loans.

You wont regret picking up this book. It will inspire to think of ways your business can engage with "base of the pyramid" populations for the benefit of your business and our societies.

No comments: